South Asian activist eyes Albany seat in eastern Qns

By Rich Bockmann

An activist in eastern Queens’ South Asian community who pushed to redraw his state Assembly district is eyeing a seat in Albany.

Attorney Ali Najmi registered a committee with the state Board of Elections Tuesday to run for an unnamed office, but did not return calls to elaborate on his plans.

Through his work with the South Asian/West Indian advocacy group SEVA, the Glen Oaks resident assisted in the successful effort to redraw Assemblyman David Weprin’s (D-Little Neck) district in 2012 to stretch west in order to include the immigrant communities in Richmond Hill.

Weprin ran unopposed in the new district later that year, and many in the South Asian community bemoaned the absence of one of their own on any state ballot during the election.

Najmi, however, used to work as a legislative director for the assemblyman’s brother, City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), and he would have to be very dissatisfied with Weprin’s record to display such disloyalty.

“If he runs against David, it is because he feels like his community is not being represented,” a source familiar with eastern Queens politics said.

Another possibility is that Najmi could be the first to step up and challenge state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who ruffled Democratic feathers when he broke with the party leadership in Albany two weeks ago to join the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference.

Even so, an unelected contender such as Najmi would face Sisyphean odds challenging an incumbent like Avella, and the eastern Queens source suggested Najmi may be looking to make a name for himself should he choose to try a more reasonable challenge further down the line.

“If he runs against Tony, he’d be doing it to make a statement,” the source said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this was just an attention-seeking move.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.